South Florida has seen its share of head-turning landmarks.
A giant backyard middle finger erected by porn-king Al Goldstein. An island monument adopted for XXX-rated movie shoots. An eye-bending mural on the side of the Fontainebleau. The spinning center-field sculpture at Marlins stadium.
And now, introducing the latest local wonder: a 110-foot-tall winged horse slaying a dragon.
The giant bronze thing rises from a plain asphalt parking lot at Gulfstream horse track and sits amid a bustling neighborhood of homes and businesses. And as workers put the finishing touches on the sculpture, some people stop for selfies, others shake their heads, still others gape in awe.
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The Pegasus was shipped in pieces from China and Germany and will be ready — except for the shooting water — in time for the start of racing season on Saturday.
Naturally, people are curious as they see the progress — especially since the area’s new eye-catcher looms over the lot and can be spotted from apartment balconies, City Hall and from busy U.S. 1 on the border of Broward and Miami-Dade.
The $30 million Pegasus was put together over the last year and is nearly complete. Landscaping and waterfall should be done by summer 2015. A theater — showing the story of the Greek mythological character — and a Ferris wheel may follow.
“At first I didn't know what it was, then as it started to take shape I could see what it was making out to be,” said Allyn Alford, who lives in a nearby condo and can see it from his balcony. “I just don't understand the point of it.”
The point, project manager Guenter Czany said, is to show that good prevails over evil.
“People may wonder what it is now,” said Czany from inside his work trailer office, covered with pictures of the sculpture from every stage of construction. “But it will become a landmark.”
Gulfstream officials have high hopes for the mythical creature.
“The statue is like no other in the world,” said Tim Ritvo, president of Gulfstream Park and chief operating officer of The Stronach Group, the property owner. “It will enhance and help brand the city and Gulfstream Park.”
On a recent weekday, a couple visiting from Costa Rica stopped their car in the street in front of the sculpture and posed for a selfie.
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” said Jorge Méndez, who was with his wife, Elena Alvarez. The couple traded spots for pictures and tried to take several together.
“We want to show people,” he said.
Dale Raftery, who lives in Northeast Miami-Dade, pulled into the parking lot, sat on the hood of his car and stared.
“It’s absolutely amazing,” said Raftery, who visited after hearing from a friend that the Pegasus was nearly complete. “A lot of work went into that.”
Czany, whose Germany-based company Strassacker handled the project, said amazing work went into the project. It started with an idea from Gulfstream’s owner Frank Stronach. The idea — having a giant Pegasus to represent the track — then went from paper to clay and Styrofoam.
Czany said that when he first heard what Stronach was imagining, he thought it was “impossible,” and “crazy.” But working with a company in China, Strassacker came up with a plan to make the idea a reality.
Chinese engineers used a grid to create the horse and then cast the sculpture out of hundreds of tons of bronze. It was cut into pieces and packed in 26 shipping containers, then placed on a boat for a nearly six-week journey to America.
Meanwhile, the steel framework was created in Germany, which included a lot of precision, Czany said. That was also packaged and sent to Hallandale Beach by boat.
In March, the building began. The South Florida branch of the Swedish company Skanska is handling the construction of Pegasus, which is being paid for by Gulfstream.
To help put the pieces back together, 40 Chinese workers came to Hallandale Beach. With the help of translators, the horse began to take shape. A special crane was brought in to lift the heavy head and wings into place.
Some say the piece just doesn’t fit with the area. Homes to the north look up to the anatomically correct horse’s rear. Diner customers across the street see it from the side.
“It’s jarring to the landscape,” said Emil Hubschman of neighboring Aventura to the south. “They should have reached out to the people who live in the area.”
But Ritvo said it’s part of the overall plan for Gulfstream, which is growing around the current race track, casino and complex of shops and restaurants. Soon construction will begin on the Gulftsream Park Tower, a 182-unit apartment building. Two new restaurants recently opened in the Village and a bowling alley will open in the winter. Work has begun on the owner’s steakhouse and market.
Pegasus Park will be a landscaped area where people can get up close and personal.
“The statue is iconic,” Ritvo said.
Not for everyone.
Said Andy Harris, a Realtor: “Nothing says ‘Welcome to Gulfstream Park’ better than a horse stomping on a lizard that was made in China.”
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Pegasus by the numbers:
What: Pegasus slaying a dragon
Idea conceived: April 2011
Dimensions: 110 feet tall, 115 feet wide, 200 feet long
Materials: Pegasus, 330 tons of steel and 132 tons of bronze; dragon, 110 tons of steel and 132 tons of bronze
Journey to Hallandale Beach: Hundreds of bronze pieces were packed in 26 shipping containers and sent by boat which took about six weeks. The steel was packed in 23 containers and also sent by boat.
Nuts and bolts: 18,000 screws
Workers: More than 200, including four translators
Cost: About $30 million
Construction: Took about eight months and is nearly complete. The landscaping and water feature should be completed by summer 2015.
Other South Florida landmark sculptures
Good or bad, there or already gone, there are several sculptures or landmarks across south Florida that get attention.
Here’s a look at a few:
▪ Miami Marlins stadium is home to the $2.5 million home-run sculpture designed by Red Grooms and featuring colorful clouds, flamingos, seagulls and palm trees.
▪ Al Goldstein, a photographer and pornographer, erected an 11-foot tall raised middle finger in the backyard of his Pompano Beach home that was visible to boaters in the Intracoastal Waterway.
▪ The giant beige-colored arch that can be seen from the Palmetto Expressway is a reminder of Modernage Furniture that used to be at 1200 NW 167th St.
▪ Standing 53-feet tall, the Brickell Avenue Bridge statue depicts the history of the Tequesta Indians, Miami’s first inhabitants.
▪ The Flagler Memorial on Monument Island honors Florida Pioneer Henry Flagler. The 110-foot sculpture served as the backdrop for an online porn video produced by RealityKings.com.